FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A proposed needle exchange program on Downtown Fresno’s Fulton Street would bring the multi-million dollar revitalization effort to a halt, according to the city’s Mayor Jerry Dyer and Councilmember Miguel Arias.
The controversy over the proposed needle exchange in Downtown Fresno began at Fresno City Hall when three city council members publicly spoke out against the proposal (click here for more information). The entire exchange prompted a critical response from Fresno County that same afternoon, where officials fired back against the city’s claims (click here for more information).
The council members and the mayor are worried that a needle exchange will undo the work to revitalize Downtown Fresno’s Fulton Street.
“We just had a restaurant pull out of the old Take Three shop as a result of this announcement,” said Arias.
Councilmember Miguel Arias’ district includes Downtown Fresno and during the press conference with Councilmember Garry Bredefeld on Monday, they focused on the impact of a needle program.
“In this program, they hand out 20,000 taxpayer-funded needles to drug addicts every week. That’s 80,000 needles every month, and one million needles every year,” said Bredefeld.
The program was approved by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday; city officials say the exchange could hamper their revitalization efforts.
“Thousands of kids will be invited to this corridor. Now we’re going to have to cancel events on weekends because who is going to want to walk by the lines of folks waiting for a free needle and a free crack pipe?” asked Arias. “No one is going to go.”
“Is this the image that we want for Downtown Fresno? Hundreds of addicts lined up on Fulton Street, and believe me, there are hundreds that come to the needle exchange program,” said Mayor Dyer.
In June, the City of Fresno announced a $250 million state fund to upgrade the city’s downtown. At the time, Dyer said the money would be the largest single investment in the city’s history. That money is all part of the mayor’s mission to increase the amount of people living downtown, and ultimately business.
“We’re doing our very best to increase our downtown residency from 3,000 to 10,000 people. What impact will this have?” Dyer asked.
Fresno County Public Health says they chose the headquarters on Fulton Street because it would have enough space for everyone who wants help from the program.
Health experts say programs like these, help reduce the number of deaths and emergency room visits, which could ease the strain on hospitals.
Still, officials say they see the importance, they just don’t want it in Downtown Fresno.
“They should’ve been letting people know, there are a lot of stakeholders involved and their decisions have adverse impacts on many, many people,” said Bredefeld.